Kansas University’s Travis Releford, Jeff Withey and Ben McLemore surely are salivating over the possibility of playing as many as five more games in Sprint Center this season.
The high-scoring trio accounted for 153 of KU’s 235 points in three November games in the Kansas City, Mo., arena. That’s 65.1 percent of KU’s total points in victories over Oregon State (84-78 Friday), Saint Louis (73-59, Nov. 20) and Washington State (78-41, Nov. 19). The Jayhawks, who will play one to three games in Sprint Center during the Big 12 tournament, also are eligible for consideration to play first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games in downtown KC.
The way it adds up, Releford, a 6-foot-6 senior from Kansas City, Mo., has scored 60 points in KU’s three Sprint Center games; Withey, a 7-foot senior from San Diego, has totaled 50 points; and McLemore, a 6-5 freshman from St. Louis, has 43 points.
The ever-modest Releford, who was MVP of the recent CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Sprint Center, believes he knows the secret to his success.
“I guess being back home. I am always excited to be back here,” said the former Roeland Park Bishop Miege standout. “I get to see all my friends and family members I don’t get to see much. They don’t get a chance to come watch me at the fieldhouse a lot. I guess it’s the excitement coming into the game.”
Releford’s 16 second-half points Friday (20 overall off 8-for-10 shooting with seven rebounds, five assists) helped the Jayhawks shake a pesky Oregon State team. It’s a victory that upped the Jayhawks’ record to 6-1 and dropped the Beavers to 4-2.
“Coach wasn’t too happy with us,” Releford said of Bill Self’s postgame speech. “He told us the things we need to work on better — finishing games and closing out a half. It’s stuff we can correct and need to work on during the week.”
KU was burned by point guard Ahmad Starks, who scored 25 points off 9-of-20 shooting, including 7-of-13 from three.
“Their guard ... that was one of coach’s key things in the locker room at the end, how we need to play better on the guards,” Releford said. “The last few games, the guards have been controlling the game for the other team. We need to continue to work on things, talking on defense. That was a key to Starks getting open looks.”
Starks’ performance brought to mind some other guards. San Jose State’s James Kinney scored 30 points off 11-of-26 shooting (4-of-12 from three) in KU’s 70-57 victory Monday in Allen Fieldhouse. Also, Chattanooga’s Farad Cobb hit seven threes and scored 21 in KU’s 69-55 win on Nov. 15. Michigan State’s Keith Appling scored 19 and Gary Harris 18 in the Spartans’ 67-64 win over KU on Nov. 13.
Self said he would be considering all options, including possibly playing zone defense, if the Jayhawks don’t start improving on the ball defense.
Of the defense, Self noted: “It all comes down to this ... they guard the guy with the ball better than we guard their guy with the ball. I remember Pat Jones (former Oklahoma State football coach). He’d say, ‘Hey, they were getting our guy; we weren’t getting their guy.’’’
KU has some time to work on its flaws. The Jayhawks next meet Colorado at 1 p.m. Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse.